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Journey’s By Rail

Handan: train guards

Whilst the team has traveled across time zones to be here, in many ways our journey starts here in the hot bustling haze of today’s on the fly office – Beijing’s West Station. The last time I passed through these hallowed halls was wrapped up to the 11’s to board a train for a mid-winter jolly in Mongolia and if the allure then was to pause and reflect purpose now is to feel our way around the challenge of designing [redacted].

The train from Beijing to Handan takes four hours, time spent in the company of a mixture of working-under-the-sun country folk, city slickers, an dormitory’s worth of university students returning home for their summer vacation. Pleasantly there’s also a couple of teens who appearance I can only describe as chemo – a rawer, punk induced Chinese variant of emo. Making sense of the fashion here is a art-form that requires an understanding of local tastes, international fashion, and knowing what international brands are currently being manufactured locally – sooner or later it shows up on the streets and back alleys. Tip for the future? That little known brand called Made in China.

Handan: journeys by train

A last-minute switch to an earlier morning train means we have standing-only tickets although it turns out this is no barrier to taking a seat on the over-crowded train – so friendly are the locals to the strangers in their midst that the seats designed to take two cheeks are pushed to accommodate threes and fours. It’s time to ad-hoc the local nuances of train travel: the first challenge of the day is to turn a slightly suspicious captive audience in to a captivated audience. Let the games begin.